Three US states, DC, sue Google for localization

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WASHINGTON, Jan 24 (Reuters) – Texas, Indiana, Washington state and the District of Columbia sued Alphabet Inc’s Google (GOOGL.O) on Monday over what they said were deceptive location-based practices that invade users’ privacy.

“Google falsely misled consumers into believing that changing their account and device settings would allow customers to protect their privacy and control what personal data the company could access,” the attorney general’s office said. Karl Racine in Washington, DC, in a statement.

Still, Google “continues to systematically monitor customers and profit from customer data,” the statement said, calling the practice a “clear violation of consumer privacy.”

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Google spokesperson Jose Castaneda said “Attorneys General are suing based on inaccurate allegations and outdated assertions about our settings. We’ve always built privacy features into our products and provided robust controls to location data. We will vigorously defend ourselves and set the straight record.”

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton alleged that Google misled consumers by continuing to track their location even when users sought to prevent it.

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Google has a “Location History” setting and notifies users if they turn it off “the places you go are no longer stored,” Texas said.

Google “continues to track users’ location through other parameters and methods that it does not adequately disclose,” Texas said.

Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson said that in 2020, Google earned nearly $150 billion from advertising. “Location data is key to Google’s advertising business. Therefore, it has a financial incentive to deter users from opting out of access to this data,” Ferguson’s office said in a statement Monday.

In May 2020, Arizona filed a similar lawsuit against Google over the collection of user location data. This trial is ongoing.

Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal said “the startling allegations in this bipartisan lawsuit by four attorneys general show, once again, that tech companies continue to mislead, deceive and prioritize profits over protection of user privacy”.

He said “Congress must urgently respond to this moment of the privacy crisis by passing comprehensive legislation that provides the privacy protections Americans need and deserve.”

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Reporting by David Shepardson and Doina Chiacu; additional reporting by Nate Raymond; Editing by Marguerita Choy and Lisa Shumaker

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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